Caribbean Reef Octopuses, Octopus briareus
Taxonomy Animalia Mollusca Cephalopoda Octopoda Octopodidae Octopus briareus
Description & Behavior
Caribbean reef octopuses, Octopus briareus (Robson, 1929), aka reef octopus, are characterized by their distinctive blue-green colors with occasional mottled-brown markings. Like other octopus species, Caribbean reef octopuses are typically solitary and are able to quickly change color using specialized cells in their skin known as chromatophores. These amazing cephalopods have been measured to 12 cm (mantle length) with arms to at least 60 cm. They can weigh up to 1.5 kg.
World Range & Habitat
Caribbean reef octopuses are common throughout the Western Atlantic, Bahamas, Caribbean and the coasts of northern South America. They are nocturnal hunters and are often found out at night searchng for prey among reefs and sea grass beds. Because their blue-green skin is so reflective, they are easy to spot at night with dive lights.
Feeding Behavior (Ecology)
Octopus briareus feeds on a wide array of animals including primarily crustaceans as well as small fish and bivalves. This intelligent species often feeds by spreading its webbed arms to form a canopy to net its prey.
Caribbean reef octopuses reproduce sexually. Males and females are similar in size, color and behavior except for the presence of hectocotylus (a modified arm of the male of certain cephalopods, such as the octopus, functioning as a reproductive organ in the transference of sperm to the mantle cavity of the female) in males. Fertile females collected from the Florida Keys have been observed laying approximately 500 large eggs around January. After about 50-80 days (quicker in warmer waters) the eggs hatch. The hatchlings are able to move like adults using jet propulsion and they can also eject ink and crawl like adults. The young octopuses grow very quickly and within about 17 weeks the young reach about 75% of the adult size. Male Caribbean reef octopuses are sexually mature in 140 days and females in 150 days.
Conservation Status & Comments
They can be easily studied and bred in laboratories. Hanlon and Forsythe (1985) have found that O. briareus is cannibalistic in group culture though.
References & Further Research
Dr. James B. Wood, The Cephalopod Page
Roper, C.F.E., M.J. Sweeney & C.E. Nauen, 1984. FAO species catalogue. Vol. 3. Cephalopods of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of species of interest to fisheries. FAO Fish. Synop., (125) Vol. 3277p.
Tree of Life: Cephalopoda
Tree of Life Cephalopoda Glossary
National Resource Center for Cephalopods
Norman, M., Debelius, H. 2000. Cephalopods - A World Guide, Conchbooks, Germany. 319 p.
TONMO.com - The Octopus News Magazine Online
Research Octopus briareus » Barcode of Life ~ BioOne ~ Biodiversity Heritage Library ~ CITES ~ Cornell Macaulay Library [audio / video] ~ Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) ~ ESA Online Journals ~ FishBase ~ Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department ~ GBIF ~ Google Scholar ~ ITIS ~ IUCN RedList (Threatened Status) ~ Marine Species Identification Portal ~ NCBI (PubMed, GenBank, etc.) ~ Ocean Biogeographic Information System ~ PLOS ~ SIRIS ~ Tree of Life Web Project ~ UNEP-WCMC Species Database ~ WoRMS
Feedback & Citation
Start or join a discussion about this species below or send us an email to report any errors or submit suggestions for this page. We greatly appreciate all feedback!
Help Protect and Restore Ocean Life
Help us protect and restore marine life by supporting our various online community-centered marine conservation projects that are effectively sharing the wonders of the ocean with millions each year around the world, raising a balanced awareness of the increasingly troubling and often very complex marine conservation issues that affect marine life and ourselves directly, providing support to marine conservation groups on the frontlines that are making real differences today, and the scientists, teachers and students involved in the marine life sciences. Join us today or show your support with a monthly donation.
With your support, most marine life and their ocean habitats can be protected, if not restored to their former natural levels of biodiversity. We sincerely thank our thousands of members, donors and sponsors, who have decided to get involved and support the MarineBio Conservation Society.